How is cloud computing becoming more influential in the charity sector?

Company execs have long since worked out that the cloud can be beneficial for all manner of industries, from the faster moving technological sector to the more glacial banking and healthcare divisions.

The charity, or Third Sector, is no different, according to a report from exponential-e entitled “Third sector reaches for the cloud”.

Yet it needs to be pointed out that the revolution has still got a long way to go. Whilst 42% of respondents said their companies had used software as a service (SaaS) based applications over the past 12 months, 39% admitted they hadn’t considered cloud as a solution at all.

30% said they were using infrastructure as a service (IaaS), whilst 15% were using platform as a service (PaaS).

In the majority of cases, budgetary constraints were the reason behind lack of deployment. Given charities are traditionally not the most cash-rich of companies, this may not come as any particular surprise.

More than three in five (61%) said the biggest technological challenge facing their organisation was meeting objectives with lower IT budgets. A quarter (26%) complained they lacked the resources for large scale deployments, whilst 23% said the biggest difficulty was managing more and more physical IT assets through their own departments.

Interestingly, around one in 10 (9%) felt vendors lacked requisite knowledge of the Third Sector – which could certainly be a new area for cloud providers to examine to achieve a business win.

The report finds various key methods that cloud technology can assist the voluntary sector. Chief of these is making the organisation more agile, according to half of those polled. 38% agreed that cloud would reduce their company’s total cost of ownership (TCO), whilst 35% cited increased mobility and collaboration was their biggest benefit.

Other drivers include improving the experience for service users, increased scalability, and better disaster recovery.

Yet when respondents were specifically asked about barriers, trust was the number one issue according to 29% - not cost. Lack of board level buy in (27%) and worries about integrating with existing IT infrastructure (18%) comprised the top three.

The overall results chime readily with current trends about industry adoption. Yet the overall message, for CSPs who want to gain ground in this sector, is to look at the bespoke solution.

“It’s clear that cloud providers need to take an individual approach when collaborating with Third Sector organisations,” the report noted, adding: “Here, the procurement phase needs extremely careful handling.

“Unlike other industries, charities and housing associations need greater support in building a business case for the introduction of cloud technology internally, and influencing their key non-IT stakeholders.”

The full report can be read here (registration required). What do you make of the results? Are you employed by a charity organisation, and would cloud benefit you?

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21 Aug 2013, 11:17 p.m.

This is a great article and should server as a wake up call to other Cloud Service Providers (CSP's), the majority of whom have either taken advantage of or over looked this important vertical. Charitites do need to be understood in there specific needs and values but their drivers for adopting the cloud are the same as most other organisations. That is increased mobility and collaboration, as charity more than most tend to have quite disparate teams or individuals who need to operate from various locations.

In our own business at Cloud4 Computers we recognised this a number of years ago and are one of the only CSP's with a dedicated team working only with charities and the third sector to provide tailored solutions around the operational and budgetary needs of charities. We also pass on all of the significant discounts provided for charity form Microsoft on licensing that are available to make sure we're giving best value across the board. So solutions such as Hosted Exchange of Hosted Desktop are incredibly cost effective while giving operational benefit.

Charities are no different to other organisations in their particular IT challenges, but they are different in their organisational make up with many stake-holders, goals and how they can allocate budget, but through embracing cloud services they stand to gain more than most through lower Cap-ex and improved TCO for their IT budget over the short, medium and long term as going hosted also enables them to keep up to date with the latest technology as it happens for no or little additional cost.

We'll certainly be continuing to work closely with charities and enjoy seeing the benefits the cloud is bringing to the organisations we work with who can focus more on their core values than whether their technology is up to date.